Fresh from creating a vision of Champions League wonderment in Seville’s architectural paradise, Manchester City’s focus now switches to demolishing a domestic Villa in not-so beautiful Birmingham.
City’s exquisitely crafted 3-1 victory in Spain cemented the foundations of what promises to be their best ever Champions League campaign, and underpinned the strength in depth of Manuel Pellegrini’s squad.
Hewn from an irresistible blend of Hispanic, Latino and European influences, City have assembled a structure that is as easy on the eye as any of the finest buildings in the capital of Andalusia.
It wasn’t just the win and the luxury of qualification for the knockout stages of the CL with two games still to play, that impressed.
The emphatic manner of Tuesday night’s triumph had City fans and detractors alike drooling, albeit the latter, via a grimace and gritted teeth.
Minus Aguero, Silva, Zabaleta and Nasri, City dominated and neutralised a stylish Sevilla side who had given the Sky Blues a real scare at the Etihad, before finally succumbing to Kevin de Bruyne’s 91st minute winner.
KdB was surprisingly left on the bench in the return at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjaun Stadium, as Pellegrini opted for what appeared to be a more ‘solid’ defensive minded approach.
Appearances can be very deceptive.
City’s blistering first half savaging of Sevilla suggests it would be dangerous to play poker with Manuel, as he called Unai Emery’s bluff and annihilated the Spaniard’s team.
It was a fantastic City football fiesta as Sevilla slumped in a mistimed siesta and found themselves 2-0 down inside 11 minutes.
The value of Sterling rocketed in the Eurozone as Raheem slotted home his first Champions League goal, before being instrumental in the approach to Fernandinho’s headed second.
Wilfried Bony stepped up to deliver his finest City showing, leading the line and scoring City’s third goal – his fourth of the campaign.
City were imperious, prompting Sevilla coach, Emery to say: “We played against a fantastic team.”
The superlatives flowed as easily as cheap Sangria with some of City’s understated stars - Fernando in particular – finally showing their worth.
Navas was promoted from Jesus to God for the night as the home fans poured out their love for one of their former icons.
One suspects they may even have applauded had his thundering drive gone in the net, instead of cannoning off the post.
City travelling support revelled in the atmosphere, despite the overzealous attentions of the Seville Riot Police who, like most Spanish forces, prefer to pose in a misguided display of machismo.
It was ‘typical City’ in the humour stakes as hundreds of fans produced mini-placards displaying ‘BOO’ as UEFA’s tainted anthem reverberated around the arena.
Well done to Howard Burr and the Reddish Blues for the hysterical interlude, as the rest of the Blues booed themselves hoarse.
It was such a far cry from the despair that had enveloped many fans, when Sergio Aguero and David Silva were crocked on international duty in early October.
The media hate brigade declared City's Premier and Champions League ambitions would falter without the world class goal-taker and playmaker.
Five wins and a draw at The Swamp would suggest otherwise.
The 5-1 dismantling of Crystal Palace in the Capital One Cup, the patient 2-1 picking off of a defiant Norwich City in the league, and this sublime sinking of Sevilla mean City are firing on all fronts.
Sitting just two tables away in a tapas bar from the likes of Mike Keegan of the Daily Mail, Jeremy Cross of the Daily Star and Ian Herbert of the Independent, on match day, your author was tempted to have ‘a word’ with the jaundiced journos.
Preferring hotel accommodation to a Spanish jail, the temptation was resisted, and even this trio of wasters would subsequently find it difficult to find fault with City...on this occasion.
Pellegrini and his players are doing it the right way – actions speak louder than words – whereas additional silverware screams volumes!
Next up is a trip to Villa Park against the team who City have enjoyed the most success in the Premier League.
With 21 wins and 68 goals scored against the Villains, it would be a massive shock if the league leaders didn’t take maximum points.
Complacency, so often in the past the worst ‘C’ word in the Manchester City dictionary, can have no part to play in the Sunday lunchtime proceedings.
To many it looks a total mismatch – top versus bottom – but such upsets can and do occur in England, unlike most of Europe’s top flight divisions.
Villa should field former City favourites and defensive stalwarts Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott. Both will be generously received and warmly applauded by the 3,000 City fans.
Fabian Delph will receive the polar opposite reception from Villa diehards, still smarting from their ex-skipper’s ‘on-off-on’ transfer saga to City last summer.
Injuries have so far severely limited Delph’s playing time at City, but the England midfield man is viewed as an important asset at the Etihad.
Following a brief appearance as sub, Delph endeared himself to the fans in Seville with a humorous warm down routine – an astute PR exercise – as the supporters waited 50 minutes after full time to be allowed to vacate the stadium.
New Villa manager Remi Garde will be hoping his influence will spark an immediate upturn in Villa’s fortunes, but City are firm favourites.
Does Pellegrini make changes to rest weary limbs and freshen things up by bringing back de Bruyne and involving Kelechi Iheanacho? Does the Chilean rest Nicolas Otamendi for Eliaquim Mangala?
Great dilemmas for Manuel, and that’s before Aguero, Silva, Zabaleta and Nasri are hopefully back in contention for Liverpool’s visit on November 21st.
One City youngster, on the bench in Seville – Brandon Barker – won’t be pushing for a start in sky blue for now, following a loan deal to Rotherham United in the Championship.
It makes sense to gain First XI experience, return as a more rounded performer and push on for a promising career at City.
He’ll be in good company with Iheanacho, Patrick Roberts, Manu Garcia, Pablo Maffeo, Thierry Ambrose, Angus Gunn and others who could graduate into senior stars of the future.
In the here and now, City must ensure one of the best ever adverts for their Youth Academy doesn’t prove their undoing.
Micah scored that most memorable of FA Cup equalisers in added time for City against Villa way back in February 2006.
Pellegrini’s blueprint for success doesn’t include any dropped points against Villa. The Engineer with an eye for architecture, needs to keep the 'spirit levels' on an upward trajectory in the City camp before the international break kicks in.
By David Walker
Dedicated to the memory of two true Blues tragically taken from us in recent weeks. Chris Shaw and Nick Bookbinder both succumbed to cancer and will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing them as loved ones, friends or City acquaintances.
Just like those who gave their lives in the service of their country, defending our rights to liberty and freedom in wars and military campaigns WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu